We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

In Britain there is overwhelming popular support for the legalisation of cannabis, yet because recreational drugs are illegal, our cities are being ravaged by criminal turf wars over drug distribution. Taking the products out of the hands of criminals and into regulated markets would not only end the bloodshed, it would end the unnecessary criminalisation of thousands of young people. Drug addiction would be treated as a medical, not judicial problem. The war on drugs has failed and will always fail because humans like to alter their mental state. Voters should be allowed to enjoy drugs safely …

Guido Fawkes

Ever since I attended Essex University in the early 1970s I have been of the the opinion that cannabis can have a very bad effect on some people. I watched it turn a few relatively normal people into excessively placid and “pacific” people who, if you then verbally pressurised them even quite mildly, but in a way they couldn’t handle, were liable to turn on you like cornered rats, in ways that were wildly excessive compared to any rudeness you had subjected them to. In short, cannabis drove them mad. In particular, paranoid. All sense of proportionality in how they defended themselves in a vigorous but basically friendly conversation went out the window. That’s what I think I then saw. And ever since then, I’ve heard further anecdotage that confirms that prejudice.

Which does not mean that I favour cannabis being illegal, any more than I favour it being illegal to smoke, or to drink alcohol, or to borrow money unwisely, or to gamble, or to climb mountains, or to parachute out of airplanes, or to do anything dangerous merely because it is dangerous. Guido frames this as an argument about the right to do drugs safely. I prefer to think of it as the right to do unsafe things, to decide what risks you will take with your life, to make your own judgements about how to balance pleasure against danger.

Insofar as Guido merely implies that dangerous things which you can only get from criminals are a hell of a lot more dangerous than if they are legal, I wholly agree.

Five Eyes, one closing

“Five Eyes on China cut to four as New Zealand puts trade first”, reports the Times.

New Zealand has broken with Anglophone allies over using the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network to confront China, reversing an agreement to expand the network’s remit.

Nanaia Mahuta, the foreign minister, declared that New Zealand was “uncomfortable” with pressuring China and wanted to pursue its own bilateral relationship.

The network, a Cold War-era partnership to share intelligence, took a new turn last year when it began issuing statements as a single entity, including condemning China’s human rights record.

Last May defence ministers from Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand endorsed an expanded role with a public commitment not only to meet shared security challenges but “to advance their shared values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights”.

Mahuta, 50, said she had informed the other Five Eyes members of New Zealand’s changed position.

Ms Mahuta waxed poetical about the relationship between New Zealand and China:

She symbolised the China-New Zealand relationship as one between a “dragon and taniwha”, a serpent-like creature from Maori myth.

“I see the taniwha and the dragon as symbols of the strength of our particular customs, traditions and values, that aren’t always the same, but need to be maintained and respected,” she said. “And on that virtue we have together developed the mature relationship we have today.”

Oddly, the Times report makes no mention of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. If only she knew of this cynical act of realpolitik by one of her ministers!

Three cheers for the European Super League!

Nothing official yet but it would appear that there are plans for a European Super League. Yes, I know you’re thinking, “Don’t we already have one of those?” Sort of, except that the Champions League is not a league let alone one of champions. This, on the other hand, would be a proper week-in, week-out competition to determine who – really – is the best team in the world.

Shockingly, some people don’t seem to like it. UEFA doesn’t like it. FIFA doesn’t like it. The British Government – you really would have thought that Boris Johnson would have bigger things on his mind right now – doesn’t like it. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “If *a**e*s like FIFA and the British government are against it, it must be a good thing.” And you know what? you are absolutely right. But there are other reasons to like it. What it means is that ordinary people will be able to watch the best football in the world on a weekly basis. It also means that the footballers who people actually want to watch will get their just rewards. In many ways it is just as revolutionary as the creation of the Premier League in 1993 or the creation of the world’s first league in 1888 or the decision to ban handling and kicking people in the shins. Frankly, it’s about bloody time.

Of course, it is bad news for rubbish teams. But who cares about them? As it happens, I do. I support one of them, well, when they’re not promoting communist thuggery (but that’s another story). But I don’t expect the world to be discombobulated just so I can watch them pulverise the best team on the planet every once in a while. I will still be able to support them – subject to semi-permanent Covid restrictions, of course. They’ll just have to cut their coat to suit their cloth that’s all. Who knows, maybe the competition will stir the game’s organisers to improve it. Perhaps, we’ll see an end to the ridiculous offside rule or sin-bins instead of bookings or even the re-introduction of handling and kicking people in the shins.

Government response to Covid-19 explained in a single video

Addendum: Suitable narrative courtesy of “Bell Curve”:

Government: We must lockdown due to this terrible disease!

Data literate people: Hey, good news, this is a nasty disease if you fit certain profiles but for most people, this is not that big a deal.

Government: We must lockdown again due to this terrible disease!

Data literate people: Guys! Please! Listen, not only is this not that big a deal, we now know early treatment means this is REALLY not a big deal.

Government: We must lockdown yet again due to this terrible disease!

Data literate people: Oh for fuck sake…

Buy Large Mansions

1909: “Socialism … It’s a grand scheme. You work for the equal distribution of property and you start by collaring all you can and sitting on it.” P.G.Wodehouse (comic author), ‘Mike and Psmith’.

2021: “I practice Marxism by getting rich and supporting my family.” Patrisse Khan-Cullors (BLM co-founder), TV Interview

Buy Large Mansions‘ was not something I expected to see added so soon to ‘Black Lives Murdered‘, ‘Bullshit Marxist Lies‘ and other clarifications of the acronym. It was obvious from the start that Chavez and his family would become stinking rich as Venezuelans starved, that Mugabe’s wealth would grow as his country’s vanished, but usually the socialists themselves say it openly only a good many years after seizing all power, not just a few months after stealing an election.

I think it was de Toqueville who said of nineteenth-century French revolutionaries: “I had the impression they were play-acting the French revolution much more than continuing it.” The same impression led Karl Marx, echoing Hegel, to write that history happens twice: “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” In that sense, Patrisse is indeed realising Marx’s vision.

She is also embodying P.G.Wodehouse’ joke. Foreseeable, avoidable tragedy is farcical. National Socialism conquered Germany, then Europe, before being pulled down by almost all the combined strength of the remainder of the world – and that was shameful, Hannah Arendt pointed out, because it was also ridiculous. The current state of the western world is less grave (as yet), but it is already shameful – because it is already ridiculous.

Samizdata quote of the day

I have believed, for some time now, that Lockdown will in due course be retro-damned as a cure worse than the disease, that at the very least went on for far too long. A generation of “experts”, all gripped by the fallacy of the risk free alternative, are going to be proved as having been very inexpert indeed. What is ending Covid is herd immunity. And what does Lockdown do? Lockdown slows down the arrival of herd immunity and prolongs the agony, in a feedback loop of yet more Lockdown. Will it ever end? I’ll believe the end of Lockdown when I see it and when the idea of re-imposing Lockdown is no longer talked about. Such are my prejudices just now.

Brian Micklethwait

Big Business has long known the way to eliminate or at least manage future rivals

Conspiracies are almost always bunk (but note that word ‘almost’). In the vast majority of cases, there are other better explanations for why things happen. Also, it ain’t a conspiracy if it is right out in the open for all to see. And by out in the open, I do not mean people saying “we are going to screw you over”. No, forget what people say, just focus on what they do and try to actually make happen. Once you understand what their objectives are, and the incentives they respond to, you can (almost) always parse their proclamations and get what they actually mean. An oil company’s objective is to produce oil, right? So, why would an oil company support phasing out internal combustion engines? Well, an oil company’s objective is not to produce oil, it is to make money and keep its employees in their jobs. And you can also make money by having governments give you taxpayer’s money to develop alternatives.

Big business seeks unified, market-based approaches ahead of climate summit

Corporate executives and investors say they want world leaders at next week’s climate summit to embrace a unified and market-based approach to slashing their carbon emissions. The request reflects the business world’s growing acceptance that the world needs to sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its fear that doing so too quickly could lead governments to set heavy-handed or fragmented rules that choke international trade and hurt profits.

– Reuters (2021)

Note that phrase “fragmented rules”. There is even a photo in the article of some poor impoverished fellow titled “A farmer burns paddy waste stubble in a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India”. No doubt this man is filled with a frisson of excitement at the prospect of having his costs massively increased by getting rid of internal combustion engines, and maybe even having some patented GMO seeds foisted on him that he has to pay for annually.

So, here is another quote.

Fascism is the organised attempt to introduce socialist planning with the consent of big business

– Edward Conze (1934)

Conze’s quote is very illuminating and even from the perspective of a deeply unpleasant man writing in the 1930s it is on the money. Where I think Conze’s observation needs a bit of updating is fascism (or alt-socialism) circa 2021 does not look exactly like fascism circa 1934. The ‘organised’ bit these days lacks jackbooted chaps marching down the street (well, usually), and modern neo-racism is tactically different to the way it was done in 1934, albeit the primary objective is still segmentation of populations into manageable groups.

Admittedly, Chinese Han nationalism is a bit more like paleo-racism than the neo-racism of the 白左 Wokesters of the Western world, complete with jackbooted thugs marching down streets, but in most other respects, the Chinese Communist Party has provided a master-class in how an ineffective Marxist socialist regime can quickly adopt the more effective and pragmatic outsourced fascist approach to planned socialist societies. A lot of people in the west look at China and rather like what they see.

When big businesses argue for higher taxes and more regulation, it takes wilful blindness to not see why they are saying these things. It is because it gives them a comparative advantage over less well capitalised up and coming rivals who lack huge compliance departments. Moreover, it strangles future would-be rivals at birth, making it too expensive to even try and get a business based on little more than a good idea off the ground. Just make sure the regulations and costs apply to everyone, no “fragmented rules” that leave gaps in which dangerous weeds might grow.

It is not a conspiracy, because not only is this completely out in the open, it is just a confluence of interests between people with monetary and political power, bureaucrats public and private looking to maintain their power and prestige.

Covid – some don’t want this crisis to end

“It is said that politicians, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.”

Sarah Napton, Daily Telegraph, writing about how the UK Government appears reluctant to accept that now that vaccines have been offered to all over-50-year-olds in the UK (a group covering 99 per cent of Covid deaths) that the threat has been massively reduced.

It gets harder by the day to resist the view that too many in government, and indeed among the public, rather enjoy the covid pandemic. It gives them the same buzz of imagining what it might have been like to live through a war, and an episode they look forward to boring their relations and descendants about for years to come. Call it also a form of pandemic Stockholm Syndrome.

Samizdata quote of the day

By punishing both the speaker and the person who remained silent, the dean of Georgetown’s law school sent a chilling message: if you are to participate in any discussion regarding grades and race, you must express the politically correct view of the matter. Silence is not an option.

But what the politically correct view actually is remains unclear. Must you say that African-American students in fact do as well in law school as their white counterparts? What if that is not, in fact, true? Can you say that African-American students don’t do as well, but that the cause for this disparity is racial prejudice? What if you don’t believe that? What is your obligation if a colleague expresses her honestly felt angst? Must you quickly interject your disagreement with her views? The message sent by Dean William Treanor is that it is best not to participate in any such conversation, and if a colleague’s comment catches you by surprise, you should walk away or turn off the Zoom call, thereby not expressing agreement or disagreement with the content.

In my view, neither professor said or did anything wrong. But even if they did, they had the academic freedom to express their heartfelt views or to remain silent in the face of a colleague expressing them.

Alan Dershowitz, referring to this incident. Dershowitz describes this as un-American, but sadly the very worst ideas spreading across the globe these days are largely American ones, being injected into other societies by large American companies and institutions that have wholly embraced them. Personally I would like to see a resurgence of older foundational American notions, but that is not the direction things are currently going.

Samizdata quote of the day

By running their ship aground in the Suez Canal, the owners of the Ever Given, Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, unilaterally realized the dream of Peter Navarro and other radical protectionists. For seven glorious days over $9 billion dollars worth of goods per day were stopped from flowing through the Suez Canal. Much of that was headed to the United States and would have added to the “trade deficit,” thus (allegedly) wrecking havoc on the United States. Many hundreds of ships loaded with hundreds of thousands of containers full of all kinds of exports are still backed up. The impact on supply chains will continue to be felt long after the forces of free trade got the ship back on its way. According to Lars Jensen, chief executive of Denmark-based SeaIntelligence Consulting, “The effect is not only going to be the simple, immediate one with cargo being delayed over the next few weeks, but will actually have repercussions several months down the line for the supply chain.”

The doctrine of the balance of trade has been around for centuries. It has also been refuted for centuries.

The protectionists should award the captain of the Ever Given a medal for – literally – blocking trade. Protectionists seek to block trade. And that’s what the Ever Given has done. (Free traders argue that protectionism isn’t a useful descriptive term, because blocking trade doesn’t protect a country, although it does protect special interests from competition.)

Of course, no serious person would propose an award to the captain of the Ever Given, but there’s really no economic difference between the bulk of a gigantic ship physically blocking trade and the armed police of the Customs and Border Patrol coercively blocking trade.

Tom Palmer

Courage in Comedy

Courage is not just a virtue; it is the form of every virtue under test. For a kindness or honesty which is only kind or honest while it is safe is not very virtuous. Pontius Pilate was merciful – till it became risky. (C.S. Lewis)

It’s not just virtue that needs courage. Jokes can need a little courage too. On one of Prince Philip’s visits to Australia, a virtue-signalling politico decided he would be asked the same questions as any immigrant.

Border Official: “Do you have a criminal record?”

Prince Philip: “I had no idea it was still a requirement.”

Witty remarks need wit – and timing (the worthlessness of ‘l’esprit d’escalier’ – that clever retort you think of whle descending the starcase after the party – has been proverbial for centuries). Humour cannot survive a too-timid inner censor (“Can I really say that? Dare I really say that?”) stealing the moment.

I’m not just talking about the overt courage some jokes need. That can be very real of course. Christabel Bielenberg fell in love with a German in 1932 and married him in 1934.

‘There can’t be many weddings in which the father of the bride stops the car on the road to the church and says to his daughter, “You can still call it off.”

In the very last days of WWII in Europe, she walked into the mayor’s office in the German community where she lived and noticed that the picture of Adolf Hitler was missing from the wall. Seeing her glance, the mayor explained he had put it in the fire the day before. Christabel thought of a joke about Adolf and his picture, automatically reminded herself not to say it out loud – and then realised with delight that for the first time in many years she could say it out loud, she no longer had to think first whether everyone present was ‘safe’. In the joke, Adolf muses to his picture, “I wonder what will happen to us after the war?” The picture replies, “I don’t wonder – I know: you’ll be hung and I’ll be unhung.” The mayor, like the vast majority of Germans, had never heard it – and till the day before would not have dared laugh at it. He spent the rest of the aftenoon suddenly guffawing and murmering, “hung – unhung”. Despite everything, the new freedom to laugh seems to have been a relief to him too. He – unlike Christabel but like too many Germans – had not had the courage to remain aware of his inner censor during the Nazi years; it had become part of him.

It’s not just the comedian who needs a little courage. The audience can also use a little of it. Prince Philip once joked to a British student in China that if he stayed there too long he might acquire ‘slitty eyes’. Thinking people (people not too scared to think) know that a joke does not mean what it literally says (and that Prince Philip did not imagine that the facial features of other nationalities could be caught through proximity, like a disease). Imagine that, back in 1937, visiting a family funeral in Germany, he had told a British student there to beware staying too long lest his head become squarer. The alleged ‘squareheads’ of native Germans in the first half of the 20th century betokened the too ordered, too obedient, too constrained thoughts within them, as the alleged ‘slitty eyes’ of native Chinese in the second half betokened the deceitful propaganda of the CCP. It should not be hard to get the joke’s point – unless of course, the very idea of thinking about an ethnic slur before condemning it is too terrifying to contemplate. “Do not trust China. China is asshole.” as a chinaman in Hong Kong more recently put it.

Orwell explained that putting the mind in a politically-correct box kills a writer’s creativity. Such cowardly conformity also hurts the sense of humour – the sense of humour.

The courage to joke also helps if your position tends to make others nervous:

“I realised afterwards that all his so-called ‘gaffes’ were quite the reverse. They were masterclasses in putting people at their ease. If he’d kept the royal drawbridge up and encouraged deference, all he would have had in his 73 years as the Queen’s husband would have been a series of terrified, tongue-tied people to talk to at a thousand events. For a serious, curious, clever man, that would have been agony. What he wanted was information, and perhaps a few laughs.” (The Truth about Prince Philip’s Gaffes)

And facing your death with courage will often mean facing it with humour. When the brilliant Oxford mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah (not so long before his own death) told Prince Philip how sorry he was to hear he was standing down from official duties in late 2017, Prince Philip replied:

‘Well, I can’t stand up much longer!’

The freedom to make a joke. The freedom to take a joke. Freedoms worth tending in the garden of your mind.

The predicted hyperinflation might already be here

Food for thought.